Backpage is down. For ever. Isn’t it the perfect condiment to make the current panic wave extra hot?
Let’s say it at the very beginning. The fall of Backpage is not related to SESTA/FOSTA. The new legal tool misguidedly put together by Congress is not yet law of the land. So, calm down and stop calling apocalypse.
The fact is that law enforcement has plenty of legal tools right now to fight against sex trafficking. You can read more in this Washington Post article.
After Rentboy’s shutting down, we all knew Backpage was next. We have been hearing prophecies about Backpage’s demise for very long months now. It finally happened.
Backpage is a lesson
Backpage was central for many sex workers’ business and their clients. I am sad at them losing a valuable and efficient resource. The site used to served a significant portion of the market, one that was already shaken after Craig’s List closing of its personal ads, I am sorry for them.
Besides punishing honest workers and their clients, shutting down Backpages is counter productive. The claimed goal is fighting sex trafficking and abuse, but tragically and ironically, by putting down the website they are eliminating a tool to control and fight those crimes, and pushing thousands of workers and their clients to riskier situations.
Our natural tendency is to blame law enforcement. However, out of the indictment it seems there are reasons to question Backpage’s management. Apparently they did not take all possible precautions to avoid that criminals profit from the platform.
Internet providers of services and content need to recognize we are entering a new age. One that will perhaps bring more responsibilities over the material that is shared in online platforms. Unfortunately, while Justice determines whether or not Backpage’s management is responsible for any wrong doing, the ones paying the higher and heavier price are primarily the sex workers , and secondarily the clients.
Of course we could argue that there is no way to control everything everybody does. The issue is at the core of some of our major nowadays challenges. Look at Facebook right now.
Not everything is about us
One of the panicky comments you can hear around is like: “they are coming for us!”. Some people think this is part of an homophobic conspiracy. Naw, we are just not so important.
There is no conspiracy, there is not planned attack. There is indeed a puritan wave that is targeting not just homosexuality, but any public expression of sex. The target is not homosexual prostitution, but all forms of prostitution. Even more, they are coming also for pornography.
Grab your pants because they may be coming, but it is not about us. We are just colateral damage.
What can we do?
- Do not panic. There is no apocalypse and no conspiracy. Websites were being seized and stings were being placed way before SESTA/FOSTA. We are just putting isolated incidents together and calling conspiracy.
- Backpage and Craig’s List can be replaced. Switch to a different outlet. Whether you were looking for regular hook ups or for a hire, you can still do the same in other websites that are probably safer. Try Adam4Adam. Try hook up Apps like Grindr or Scruff. You may find they are better.
- If you are a sex worker advertising in Rentmen, diversify your outlets. You still can publish for free in Rentboy.pro and Mintboys. If I were you, I would take a look at Mintboys. They have a business model that from the very beginning may have shielded them against SESTA/FOSTA.
- Make sure you are keeping your contacts saved and organized, so you can still communicate in case Internet is off.
- Support ACLU. They are probably the ones that will carry most of the legal challenges to the new laws, but they are not the only ones. Support your favorite advocacy group, if you preferred another one over ACLU. I can also recommend Freedom of Speech Coalition. They just released a statement.
- Depending of the level of discretion you keep, write/call/talk to your representative, to your relatives, to your friends. Sex work must not be equated to sex abuse and traffic, it is a matter of education.
- Organize. Join an advocacy group or start your own, we must unite and organize.